September Artist Spotlight: Vital Visualist, Pat Owen

* Hey Pat, can you tell us what your art form is? 

Painting and drawing.  With COMPAS, I work with people, using painting and drawing, to help them depict something about their lives.

* Do you remember how you first became interested in the arts?

 It was in third grade! I remember the specific project: we listened to music from The Nutcracker Ballet, and drew whatever images that came to us in black crayon outlines. Then, we covered the whole page in glorious watercolors. At the very bottom we stuck a tiny calendar for the upcoming year, so I imagine it was intended to be functional, but I was taken by the magic of the process.

* Do you have any advice for aspiring visual artists or artists in general?

I would give the same advice that was given to me by an art teacher long ago:  after taking several classes she commented that I'd probably taken enough classes and that it was time to just "do my work."  That's so true; taking classes doesn't define an artist; actually doing the work does.

* How does teaching your craft affect your own art?

I'm always inspired by the fearlessness and freshness of a novice's approach.

* By the end of a week with you, what are a few things you hope most participants have learned? 

Most of all, I hope they have gained more confidence in expressing their own creativity. So often, people tell me that they "can't draw" or "aren't creative". I am truly convinced that they simply have gotten rusty, or have somehow let that joyous, soft, wondering, spontaneous, "what if?" part of themselves get covered up by the detritus of everyday life. We all have creativity within us; often, it's just a matter of finding our way back.

On a practical level, I hope they've absorbed enough basic skills that they can use in whatever they do next.

* What do you enjoy the most about working with older adults in your Artful Aging programs?

 They're full of surprises. There have been times when I've seen an older adult come into the room with significant impairments, cognitive or physical, and I wonder to myself, "how is this going to work?" And then they produce something beautiful.  They know it, and everyone around them can see it. You can feel the sense of pride and fulfillment. 

* What does being a COMPAS artist mean to you?

 Being a COMPAS artist gives me a chance to grow as an artist. For example, I recently taught a 6 week class on the basics of drawing and painting at the Roseville Library. On the face of it, it sounded easy. But every session presented a new opportunity for me to really think about the best way to demonstrate and teach skills that I've come to take for granted. In doing so, I realized I was incorporating those "old" skills into my own work in new ways.

I also just love interacting with people in the context of creativity.

* Why do you think arts education is needed in our community?

Arts education expands minds and gives people a way to see everyday life in new ways. We need this. At work and in our everyday lives, we're bombarded with messages about what we should think, what's wrong with the world, and how we should conform. Arts education reminds us that there is a bigger picture, a more exciting way to be in the world.

For example, in a painting and drawing course I was teaching, one student brought in some work by Diego Rivera and we talked about how Rivera created these amazing murals to express the plight of workers, Another week a student brought in work depicting Native Americans in the 1800's. I have no idea about the participants' views about unions, workers’ rights, colonization, or white privilege. We didn't discuss any of those things; those weren't the point. Instead, we were simply able to take in the beauty and power of people expressing themselves. Who knows how that might affect the participants as they, too, go on to express themselves?

* How do you practice creativity in your everyday life?

In a general sense, I try to give myself time to be "off the clock", whether through meditation, working in the garden, taking walks, or being in nature in general, to refuel. If I do this, I find I am more likely to approach life more creatively.

In terms of producing art, I set aside time to paint and draw on a regular basis.

* What projects or programs have you been working on recently?

While I primarily do representation art, I have recently started experimenting with doing abstract pieces. Ultimately my goal is to combine the two approaches.